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How to Use Header Bidding

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how to use header bidding

Despite the technology involved in the adtech space, there are still many inefficiencies and unfair practices that need to be ironed out. Header bidding is a solution that brings publishers and advertisers together.

What Is Header Bidding?

Header bidding is a process where many advertisers simultaneously bid (in real-time) in a digital auction to win ad space on your website. This auction occurs outside your primary ad server every time your pages load or whenever an ad unit refreshes.

how header bidding works

For publishers, the primary advantage is it helps ensure you get the best deals on your ad space. To do this, you must ensure that you reach out to supply-side platforms (SSPs) and other demand partners to ensure you have many advertisers to bid on your inventory.

Header bidding is a more refined way of auctioning off your ad inventory. While it may be a bit more complex to implement than traditional methods (like waterfall bidding), it has many advantages that make it worth the hassle.

How Header Bidding Works

Here’s how the whole process play out when a visitor lands on a publisher’s page:

  • A visitor clicks a link that takes them to a web page
  • As the page loads, the short string of JavaScript in the page’s header makes a call to your demand partners or ad networks
  • Each demand partner places a bid on the publisher’s ad inventory
  • The winning bid is directed to the publisher’s ad server
  • The publisher’s ad server then connects the user to the advertiser’s server and displays the winning ad

The process may involve several steps, but it takes less than a second from start to finish.

Header Bidding Vs. Waterfall Bidding

One of the most popular methods of buying and selling ad space was waterfall bidding. It has worked pretty well for the past few years, and some publishers are still reluctant to move away from it to embrace header bidding.

The question, however, is which is better: header bidding or waterfall bidding?

To properly understand why it is your better option, we need to briefly look at what waterfall bidding is and its pros and cons.

What Is Waterfall Bidding, and How Does It Work?

Waterfall bidding is one of the earliest forms of programmatic bidding.

Waterfall bidding is an old-school way of ad serving in which publishers set a floor price for their ad space. The publisher sets the priority for each advertiser or ad network they’re connected to.

When selling ad impressions using the waterfall bidding process, inventory is offered to advertisers at a fixed minimum price per impression. The first ad network to bid at that price gets the slot.

Another important aspect of waterfall bidding is that the bidders don’t get to bid randomly. Networks that rank higher, thanks to higher historical yield, get dibs on bidding.

In a sense, waterfall bidding isn’t accurate bidding at all.

The most significant disadvantage of waterfall bidding is that the price you sell your inventory at doesn’t necessarily reflect its true value.

Ad space that remains unsold is passed on to the next ad exchange, determined by size, not the amount of the bid. The process goes on until the inventory is sold. It’s from this cascading nature of passing down inventory that the waterfall method gets its name.

Unfortunately for publishers, this means if the runner-up advertiser was willing to pay more, the publisher misses out on getting more revenue.

9 Reasons You Should Use Header Bidding

You’ve probably noticed a few advantages that header bidding has (for both publishers and advertisers) over other methods of auctioning off ad space.

Some of these benefits include:

1. Header Building Gives Publishers Access to More Advertisers

For publishers, a significant advantage of header bidding is it allows you to expand and diversify the advertisers on your site. It ensures that you’re not reliant on a small set of advertisers. Doing so helps increase your business’ resilience and adaptability.

2. Fair Bidding

One of the biggest advantages for advertisers is that it levels the playing field. That’s because no advertiser has an advantage. All bids are placed fairly, and the highest bidder wins, no matter who they are (and even if they use AdEx).

3. Header Building Improves Auction Efficiency

This type of bidding utilizes real-time pricing instead of the historical pricing used by other ad auction models. This makes it faster and more efficient.

4. Header Bidding Gives You More Control

For publishers, one of the main advantages is it gives you more control over the sources that can participate in the bidding process. As a publisher, you retain control over your site.

5. Increased Revenue

Another reason publishers like header bidding is the increased ad revenue. Not only can you charge more for your premium inventory, but you are also assured that the highest bidder wins every time.

6. Improved Ad Quality

Thanks to the increased competition, advertisers work hard to ensure their ads are high quality and more relevant to a publisher’s audience. Improved ad quality helps ensure a better user experience (UX.)

7. Improved Yield

With header bidding, you rely less on a single supply-side platform. As a result, your overall yield increases due to smarter allocation of impressions and increased fill rate.

8. Increased Fill Rates

One main reason you should use header bidding is that it exposes you to more advertisers. This has the huge advantage of increasing the chances of publishers filling all their ad slots.

9. Better Transparency

Advertisers enjoy the improved transparency that header bidding affords. They have access to all the publisher’s inventory, and thus know what’s available and how much it can cost them. This transparency helps advertisers make informed bidding decisions.

Header bidding has so many advantages for both publishers and advertisers, it’s undoubtedly worth the effort to implement it.

What Are the Drawbacks of Header Bidding?

While this type of bidding might seem like the perfect solution for both advertisers and publishers to maximize their returns, it does have its drawbacks. Here are the main ones:

Increased Latency

To run header bidding, publishers have to add a script to their site, which can slow down page load speed, resulting in a poor user experience. Another caveat is that the more advertisers that bid on your inventory, the more the page latency is affected.

You can mitigate these by following website optimization best practices to ensure your pages load faster.

Increased Management Overheads

Once you’ve set up header bidding, it requires close management to ensure it performs well. Besides ensuring that your code is working well for all your partners, adjusting bids, timeouts, and several other tasks are required to keep your header bidding optimized.

Infrastructure Costs

Implementing this bidding style can lead to increased infrastructure costs for SSPs and demand-side platforms (DSPs). One reason for this is the increased load on their servers. Another reason is the required tools and personnel needed to run it.

Header bidding may have its drawbacks, but overall, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

How to Implement Header Bidding

Implementing header bidding for publishers can be a complicated process. Setting it up is tedious as it may require you to develop countless line items of ad inventory. As said, this can have an impact on your page load speed. The consequences are poor UX for both advertisers and website visitors.

Thankfully, there are a couple of solutions for that: wrappers and server-side.

Header Bidding Wrappers

Header bidding wrappers are code containers that help ensure all auctions start simultaneously and end on time. Wrappers also ensure ads load asynchronously. This means the page’s content can load before the ads, ensuring your website latency doesn’t impact visitors

Server-Side Header Bidding

Another solution is to implement server-side header bidding.

Traditional header bidding takes place client-side (also called browser-side), meaning it depends on the browser to handle individual networks’ requests. Of course, this can put a strain on resources; something header wrappers can help address.

If many networks access the header wrapper, it triggers several JavaScript processes that make site load speed suffer.

One way to solve that problem is to limit the number of advertisers that can bid for your inventory. However, that defeats the purpose of header bidding, as you want as many advertisers as possible to participate.

Server-side header building is a solution to this problem. Server-side header bidding takes the bidding process off your browser and moves it to an external server.

To do this, you must embed code on the back-end of your website. This way, all the heavy work is transferred from your browser to your ad server. As a result, your browser can focus on the one thing it’s meant to do: serve your website visitors with content.

One of the most significant advantages of server-side is that it helps improve page load times. It also helps ensure a more efficient bidding process.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a publisher or advertiser, you should consider a header bidding strategy.

For advertisers, header bidding levels the playing field by allowing everyone to bid fairly, no matter the ad network’s size.

Publishers ensure their ad inventory sells for what it’s worth. Your primary task is to drive traffic to your website and let the bidding code do the heavy lifting of monetizing your website. With header bidding, you won’t leave money on the table, which is a win-win for everyone involved.

If you need help implementing a header bidding strategy (or even a holistic campaign that incorporates other digital ad strategies), let our agency know. Our team of experts can help!

Have you tried header bidding as a publisher or advertiser?

What was your experience with it?

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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